The stories are varied, sorted, and some, like all good steely yarns are
"Dude, I walked in to this ol' fisherman's shop and there,
hanging on the wall was the bass, the bass that would be the first and last
bass of the rest of my life!"
Some are practical.
having a sale, I picked the first one I saw, it was like blue, I like like blue, and
hey, like blue for $150 bucks who could like argue?"
OK, OK, so we
would all hope that picking out your bass would land somewhere in between
these two extremes, somewhat mythical with just a hint of practicality. Either
way it would be nice to have a good story but let's face it, you probably have
a guitar player friend that wants you to join his band as the bass player. "How
hard could it be to find a good bass?" he says. Well, the truth is, not very hard
at all. Let's read on.
First, let's decide what it is you would like to do with
your bass. Do you want to practice for 18 hours a day? Bring it home and be
playing gigs within the week? (bad bass player joke withheld for editorial
concerns). Hang it on a wall with a custom guitar
and never play it? Well, I would assume it's somewhere in the
middle. As a long time bass instructor, I would encourage you to practice 18
hours a day but hey, that?s just me. OK, 4 hours. 4 hours is OK? Then 5 hours
- git back in there. I want 5 more hours before supper!
"OK, so my
guitar player friend says I'm interested in the bass, how do I start looking?
What do I look for? How much is this new interest gonna cost me?"
you're unsure if your new band is even going to last through next week,
there's a good crop of Squier basses for under $200, like the Squier Affinity P Bass
, the Squier Affinity J Bass
and the Squier MB-4
Very playable, solid sound, and very affordable. If you've already got next
month's show booked, then I would recommend a mid-level bass, something
in the $500 dollar range. The Fender
standard four string
is the kind of bass that will give you a professional
sound right out of the box. It has professional, quality-made pickups, and for
those of you who live in the warm climates of the South or the cold un-
forgiving winters of Canada (hey, I'm from Canada), the neck will stay fairly
straight and won't bow like a banana at the first sign of extreme weather.
Fender has been building basses since the beginning of time and they're
always a safe bet for your first instrument.
Buy yourself a tuner! Let's
face it, playing the bass isn't rocket science (at least initially) and you'll be
plucking out songs in no time and wanting to jam with that guitar player
friend of yours. When the jam starts you'll want to be ready to play so a tuner
(especially for beginners) is essential in getting you up and playing quickly. It
will also help to make sure you're in tune with all those CDs you're gonna
want to jam with (during your 18 hour practice day). I've had much success
with the Korg DT-3 Guitar and Bass Tuner
which I actually picked up from this very site (thank you very much). It's
sturdy, small, easy to use, and has nice large lights on it for old guys like me,
and maybe you if this is some sort of mid-life crisis thing.
want to get yourself a practice amp. In this area you want to think small,
mighty, and preferably combo, which, for those that don't know, is the
speaker and amplifier in one easy to lift package. Most people make the
mistake of getting something that isn't loud enough, they truck it over to that
same guitar player's house, this time a drummer's shown up (he convinced
him too), and your bass parts (and yes, hopefully they're parts) become a
distorted mess. Bass is meant to be warm, fuzzy, like a furry animal that you
love and feed until it gets really fat and everyone drops by to pinch it's
cheeks. For this we need something that will comfortably fit in our practice
area and still be loud enough for the perennial cheek pinching.
generally tell people that if you can get a bass amp over 100 watts, you'll be
safe. Behringer is making great combo amps
these days and you can't beat
the price. Check out the Behringer
- 300 watts, a large 15" speaker and you won't
blow a disc when lifting it into the rehearsal space.
After a while, you'll
notice that the bass isn't sounding, well, all that great anymore. What ever
could be the problem? That problem is old strings. Now I have my particular
favorites and like any of you know who have made it this far in the article I'm
not going to sugarcoat it. Basically, I don't understand steel strings at all -
people say they last longer but I'm a nickel man and I'll tell ya why. For any of
you who have tried steel strings, you'll notice that they feel like they have a
sticky, dry kind of feel to them. For me, the fingers of my right hand feel as
though they are literally sticking to the stings. For this reason, I recommend
something like D'Addario EXP170SL Bass
. They are soft on your hands while you do dishes (OK, bad
commercial reference for anyone over the age of 35) but really, they are silky
smooth and they sound a lot brighter than steel!
Wanna know how to
spot a beginner? They're the ones without the gig bag. That's right, you know
who you are. You've bought a bass and hey, the case is included! I say that's
fine for protecting your bass when you move cross-country, but for everyday
use, get yourself a gig bag. You'll look cooler and one arm won't become
suddenly longer than the other on the repeated trips over to said guitar
players house. The Fender Deluxe Gig
is the obvious fit for your new Fender bass. Wear your bass in style!
People will stare, point, and say, "hey, now there goes a real musician!"
OK, hopefully that helped a little. Now go and buy that bass, and tell them
Chris Tarry sent ya! I'll wait..... Got it? Good, now get in that practice room!